Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

December 2, 2011
Sacramento journalists, politicos face off on the dance floor

Niello_2.jpgReporters and politicians are known more for thinking on their feet than dancing on them.

But it was the latter that mattered Thursday night when a dozen journalists and politicos took to the stage of the Crest Theatre in Sacramento for a ballroom dancing competition. Each was paired with a professional dancer to compete in the tango, foxtrot or waltz category.

"Dancing With the Capitol Stars" was a fundraiser for the Sacramento Press Club's scholarship program and a celebration of 50 years of journalism by Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton.

Bee columnist Dan Walters sat on the panel of three judges, handing out Simon Cowell-esque feedback after each performance. He told Assemblywoman Alyson Huber that her dance was "smoother than your re-election campaign will be," and told former Assemblyman Lloyd Levine that his moves proved his reputation as "one of the most slippery members of the Legislature."

Fellow judge Ron Cunningham, artistic director of the Sacramento Ballet, may have delivered the slickest dis when he told former Assemblyman Roger Niello that his performance was "effortless." As in, he made none.

The same couldn't be said for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who sang a spoof rendition of Frank Sinatra's "That's Life." Steinberg's out-of-pitch opening line was: "The press. What all reporters say. Like my ideas in April, tear them down in May. But a strong poll makes you change your tune. Putting me back on top in June."

At the end of the night, judges named political consultant Karen Skelton the winning dancer. She's the daughter of the LA Times columnist who was being honored at the event. And their family was a major donor in putting it on.

"Someone call the FPPC!" demanded one spectator, with typical Capitol cynicism.

PHOTO: Professional dancer Barnaly Pande and her dance partner, former Assemblyman Roger Niello, R-Fair Oaks, dance the waltz at the Sacramento Press Club's "Dancing with the Capitol Stars" fundraiser Thursday at the Crest Theater. Adam Gottlieb/Sacramento Press Club

December 2, 2011
GOP-backed group files new court petition against Senate maps

A Republican-backed group seeking to place newly drawn state Senate districts before voters next year is asking the California Supreme Court to prepare for its referendum to qualify for the ballot.

The petition by Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting, or FAIR, comes about two weeks after the group submitted more than 711,000 referendum signatures. It needs 504,760 valid voter signatures to reach the ballot.

"We believe there's a very strong likelihood that this referendum will qualify for the ballot," spokesman Dave Gilliard said. "The court should understand that election deadlines are coming up and that it should start preparing for this to qualify."

December 2, 2011
The Dish: LOB Cafe in the Legislative Office Building

LOB.JPG While there's no shortage of coffee and lunch locales around the Capitol, many state buildings are home to additional dining options. This post is part of a new weekly series of mini-reviews of some of those spots for downtown denizens looking to try something new.

The spot: For this week's review, Bee higher education/lobbying reporter Laurel Rosenhall and I took a trip to another era, hitting up the LOB Cafe. This eatery on the sixth floor of the Legislative Office Building doesn't look like it's changed much since the 1960s. Luckily, the food they serve isn't as old as the decor... for the most part. The grill/Asian buffet atop 1020 N Street is open from 7 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. We recommend bringing cash -- the only option for diners with only plastic on hand is to take out $40 from the cash register "ATM," which comes with a $1.50 charge.

chinese.JPGThe grub: LOB Cafe is perhaps best known among Capitol dwellers and diners for its Asian fusion buffet. On Friday's visit there were nearly a dozen MSG-free options, including several vegetarian dishes (tofu, vegetables tempura). The salad bar features an assortment of toppings, and at $4.99 a pound, the portions are up to you. The menu at the grill is more limited than the offerings at some of the other state building restaurants we've reviewed, think grilled cheese and burgers (fries are extra). We hear the BLT and the breakfast burritos are both big hits.

garden.JPGOn our plates: Torey had a sampling of items from the buffet (Korean sweet and spicy and tangy pineapple chicken, sweet and sour meatballs, chow mien and a pork pot sticker) and a side salad with spinach, peas and beets. ($6.44 total). Laurel chowed down on a garden burger with a side of fries ($3.65; $1.35) and loaded up a full plate of greens and veggies from the salad bar ($3.24).
Cheese on the burger set us back an extra 35 cents.

The bill: We paid $18.99 for food and two drinks. Our portions were admittedly large (Laurel is eating for two, with a baby on the way early next month. Torey had no excuse.).

toreyplate.JPGThe good: The buffet items, mostly fried and drenched in sauce, weren't the healthiest of lunch choices, but they did hit the spot for Torey's Panda Express-loving palate. The salad bar was one of the better we've seen in our reviews so far. In addition to a choice of greens (spinach or romaine) and standard fare vegetables, pick and choose from toppings and sides like mixed fruit, cottage cheese and potato salad. Some tables toward the back of the upper seating level offer a nice view of the Capitol dome. Those shouldn't be hard to snag, considering just four seats were taken in a dining area that has a posted maximum occupancy of 328.

The bad: As noted above, the ambiance is, well, drab at best ketchup.JPG
(mental ward and hospital cafeteria are some descriptions we heard), and the gruff staffer working the register didn't do much to brighten the mood. We did get a kick of some of the relics from earlier days, including the ketchup bottle pictured to the right. The fries could have used more salt, though Laurel admits they're probably healthier that way. The half hard-boiled egg she added to her salad appeared a bit gray on closer inspection. Perhaps it too was an artifact from lunches past?

The grade: 3 out of 5 Sporks

table.JPG

Have you been to LOB Cafe? Share your experiences in the comments field below.

You can also check out our earlier reviews of the Side Bar Cafe, Gold Rush Grille, Cafe 744 and the soon-to-be-shuttered Dave's Deli at this link.

Jon Ortiz and Torey Van Oot are taking suggestions for state building restaurants to try.Send your picks to capitolalertcontests@gmail.com and check back every Friday for a weekly write up.

December 2, 2011
Jerry Brown won't talk taxes today, after all

A day after Gov. Jerry Brown deflected questions about his tax plan saying, "We're going to unveil a very complete press release tomorrow," his press secretary said on Twitter this afternoon that no such release is forthcoming.

"Not expecting to make news today, folks," Brown spokesman Gil Duran said on Twitter, linking to a video of The Mamas & The Papas' song "Monday, Monday."

Brown is expected to propose a November 2012 ballot initiative to raise taxes on the wealthiest Californians and on sales.

He declined to discuss it even after details of the plan were reported Thursday.

December 2, 2011
AM Alert: Students get schooled during Capitol recess

Capitol denizens are more likely today to see California schoolkids enjoying a field trip or musicians playing a rotunda gig than a lawmaker walking the halls.

In fact, the entire all-girls Hamlin School of San Francisco -- from kindergarten through eighth grade -- is making a "pilgrimage to Sacramento" -- so says its website -- in part for a rally on the Capitol's west steps at 10:30 a.m. to mark this year's 100th anniversary of California women's right to vote.

The fifth-graders will even be making a stop at The Bee to learn about dead-tree news operations as well as "the differences in diverse media."

If you're looking for a committee hearing to follow, though, you'll have to wait until Monday. Legislators are out and about -- just not under the dome.

Democratic Assemblyman Bill Monning, for instance, is touring the after-school program at Watsonville's Cesar Chavez Middle School. Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickinson is visiting the after-school program at Elk Grove's Irene B. West Elementary School. And Democratic Sen. Fran Pavley is one of the speakers at a Local Clean and Green Conference in Berkeley sponsored by the UC Berkeley and UCLA law schools.

Meanwhile, the latest Field Poll won't be stopping any presses or firing up the Twitterverse: Californians aren't happy with Congress.

But three out of every four Democrats, Republicans and nonpartisans surveyed actually agree on this: They think the super committee's failure to agree on how to reduce the country's budget deficit is "very serious." They just don't agree on who's to blame.

Michael Doyle has details in today's Bee. Learn more details from the publicly released poll as well as the statistical tabulations done exclusively for Capitol Alert.

SCHOOLS: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson talks in Anaheim at noon to participants of the 90th annual California Educational Research Association conference about his take on the direction of the state's educational system.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Republican Assemblymen Chris Norby of Fullerton and Donald P. Wagner of Irvine both celebrate their birthdays on Sunday. Norby turns 62, and Wagner turns 51.



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Capitol Alert Staff


Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. jwhite@sacbee.com. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. achance@sacbee.com. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. ccadelago@sacbee.com. Twitter: @ccadelago

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert. mmassimino@sacbee.com

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. lrosenhall@sacbee.com. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. dwalters@sacbee.com. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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